The Board of the Riigikogu on Tuesday decided to convene an additional sitting of the Riigikogu on Thursday, June 16, where a motion of no confidence submitted against Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) will be put up to a vote.
The additional sitting will be held on Thursday, starting 15 minutes after the conclusion of the scheduled sitting. Thursday's scheduled sitting is slated to last from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m., which would mean the additional sitting would begin at 1:15 p.m. The Riigikogu may shorten its scheduled sitting, however, in which case the vote in the additional sitting would take place sooner.
According to ERR's information, First Vice-President of the Riigikogu Hanno Pevkur (Reform) had wanted to put the no-confidence motion against Kersna up to a vote on Tuesday already, however President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas (Center) and Second Vice-President of the Riigikogu Martin Helme (EKRE) were against doing so.
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) parliamentary group member Martin Helme submitted a motion of no confidence in Kernsa to the Riigikogu at the beginning of Tuesday's sitting, according to a Riigikogu press release. 39 MPs from the EKRE and Center Party parliamentary groups had signed the no-confidence motion.
Under the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, a no-confidence motion against a minister is included on the agenda not earlier than on the second day after it is submitted, unless the government requests a speedier decision. At an extraordinary sitting on Tuesday, the government decided to apply for the no-confidence motion against Kersna to be deliberated at the earliest opportunity.
Motion: Estonian state's credibility damaged
According to the text of the no-confidence motion, the signees thereof are expressing no confidence in Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna in connection with having breached public procurement requirements when conducting a public procurement for rapid COVID-19 tests for schools in 2021 and 2022, with which she may have committed a possible crime, caused economic damages to the state, provided one specific company with unjustified advantages, and worsened the business climate and the credibility of the Estonian state.
Echoing Center whip Jaanus Karilaid's Monday comments regarding Kersna, the motion likewise criticized the education minister for not having made enough decisive efforts in addressing long-standing issues with the funding of higher education institutions and administrative agreements remaining unsigned over it, which has in turn jeopardized the sustainability of Estonian higher education.
It also criticized Kersna's "big words and promises to stand for the development of Estonian-language education" not being reflected in her decisions and choices, including declining to continue the expansion of the pilot project "Professional Estonian-language teacher in a Russian-speaking group" first launched by then-minister Mailis Reps (Center) in 2018.
Võrklaev: No-confidence motion 'payback'
Commenting Tuesday, Reform Party whip Mart Võrklaev said that the no-confidence motion submitted by Center and EKRE against his party mate was payback over the Estonian-language education bill.
"The Reform Party parliamentary group finds that Minister of Education Kersna has done an excellent job in keeping schools open and in preparing for the transition to [fully] Estonian-language education," he said. "We know that it was Estonian-language education that was one of the biggest bones of contention in our coalition with the Center Party, so I can only deduce that this no-confidence motion is payback to the education minister for the steps she took in that area."
The fact that EKRE had joined in this no-confidence motion wasn't surprising, he continued, considering that it was EKRE and Center that had also recently voted down a bill on transitioning to Estonian-language elementary-level education in the Riigikogu.
"They're probably still displeased that the transition to Estonian-language education has become one of the primary focuses of the new government as well," Võrklaev added.
Isamaa to abstain
Deputy head of the Isamaa party, currently in talks with Reform for a new government, Urmas Reinsalu said that Isamaa MPs will not be taking part in the Thursday vote.
"The way we see it is that while EKRE and Center have invited us to participate in their struggle, it is a political fact that we are in talks for a new coalition, and it provides the context," was Reinsalu's comment.
"There is clearly a political interregnum now in which certain matters should be put on hold, and this is one of them," he added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla